KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 30 — Dressed in a niqab — the veil which covers her face leaving only her eyes visible — 22-year-old Jamila Rahim makes an unlikely face for the DAP, a secular political party that is mostly Chinese.
So much so that her public announcement and appearance as the DAP’s latest recruit has sparked a huge storm on the Internet, with a pro-Umno blog telling the young novelist and activist that she would be better off being a “whore” than joining the opposition party.
But Jamila, popularly known as Melati, is unfazed.
“I think the voice of the activists is quite the minority. Not everyone wants to listen to the voice of activists,” Melati told the DAP’s news portal Roketkini in an interview published today.
“If party members are not with them, who else will be? At least those who join political parties can deliver their voices,” she added.
The University of Selangor graduate said she joined the party to represent the activist community, which she said was marginalised during her four years of activism.
In another interview with English portal Free Malaysia Today (FMT) yesterday, Melati said she joined the party as its principles is near to her Islamic values, despite being seen as a “Chinese chauvinist” party.
“If reviewed roughly, in the DAP constitution itself, humanism or humanity is put as the spine or main core. In Islam itself, humanity is fundamental and is a need for a human,” she told FMT.
However, Melati’s entry into DAP, especially after two other Malay girls Dyana Sofya Mohd Daud and Syefura Othman, was not received well by critics of DAP and Pakatan Rakyat.
While DAP was criticised for allegedly banking on Dyana and Syefura’s looks, it was a different situation with Melati and her Islamic image.
Instead, her entry was said to be another ploy by DAP to purportedly weaken the position of Islam in Malaysia.
“The truth is, it is nobler for a prostitute who sells herself for a bowl of rice, compared to those who wear tudung and purdah “selling themselves” to DAP for worldly comfort until Islam is weakened,” said an editorial in the portal MyKMU, seen as aligned to Barisan Nasional (BN).
“Hopefully Diyana Sofea [sic], Melati and their friends are given the guidance to return to a better and nobler path, although imperfect,” said the editorial, titled “Melati, Lebih Baik Jadi Pelacur Dari Sertai DAP”
[Translation: Melati, it is better to be a whore than joining DAP].
However, Melati seemed unfazed by her move, which she made public in a footnote for a short fiction piece she sent to Roketkini on September 13.
“[Is it] against the norm? If others have the right to do what they want and believe, why do I need to stop my right to do what I want?” asked Melati.
Lawyer Dyana, 26, joined DAP as the political secretary to Gelang Patah MP Lim Kit Siang; and was picked to contest in the Teluk Intan by-election in May, but lost to Gerakan president Datuk Mah Siew Keong by 238 votes.
Syefura, 25, is a more recent recruit, joining during a DAP breaking fast ceremony.
Besides Melati, the two have since received media attention as symbols of the party’s push to gain relevance with the Malay community.